Catherine Bott explores the fashion for Turkish style that gripped Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Rossini.
Two hundred years ago on 14 August 1814, Rossini 's comic opera Il Turco in Italia was premiered at La Scala Milan. It has an intricate, fast-moving, light-hearted plot, all taken at rip-roaring speed.
But Il Turco was part of a moment in music history where Western classical composers became enamoured with oriental sounds and rhythms. In the 18th and early 19th centuries everything Turkish was all the rage – the craze was called turquerie . Artists painted market and harem scenes, Turkish costume was the last word in fashion, and composers like Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven eagerly joined in, writing music in the style that was called alla turca.
Catherine has music from all of them tonight, as well as a composer who’s much less well-known, Friedrich Witt, a contemporary of Beethoven's. He may not count as a great composer, but his Symphony Alla Turca, written in 1810, makes a great climax to this musical trip to Turkey.